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Why is effective communication integral to providing good healthcare?

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Medical News Today

Effective communication between physicians, nurses and patients is linked directly to the success of care plans. While there are many complex and intricate tasks like medical diagnosis and surgeries that have the potential to improve patient outcomes, these can be undermined if a medical team is unable to communicate consistently.

Nurses need to communicate with hospital staff to discuss treatments and make decisions about care while also being in frequent contact with the patient to keep them updated and involved in the process. Good interpersonal skills are therefore vital for registered nurses, but what exactly makes someone an effective communicator?

Communicating verbally

Being able to communicate verbally is obviously critical to improving patient outcomes in busy environments like hospitals and clinics where nurses must speak with accuracy and clarity with people from a range of different social groups. You will need to show interest in patients by asking them questions about their condition and encouraging them to perform certain tasks so that they can retain their independence and take their medicines on time.

Communicating verbally with medical staff is also critical for patient safety and overall quality of care. A nurse, for example, may need to quickly inform a doctor about an allergy or a slight tweak to a dosage that may have been labelled incorrectly. Using “layman’s” terms and non-technical jargon will help medical teams make concise, informed decisions so that care plans remain on track and specific goals can be achieved.

Actively listening

Communication is not just talking though. Nurses also need to be attentive, active listeners. You should be ready and willing to take a patient’s concerns and beliefs on board and reply in a sincere and timely manner. There will be intervals when you will need to give your complete attention to others, such as a physician or other medical personnel. Actively listening and coming up with a response and potential solutions are part of the day-to-day cycle of being a nurse.

This also extends to non-verbal communication skills like making regular eye contact and using compassionate gestures and a comforting tone of voice. Active listening is not going to be as effective if you are hunched in the corner of a room looking disinterested. Nurses should lean forward when sitting down, for example, to show everyone that they are engaged. These elements also help to build a stronger rapport with patients, which can take the quality of care to the next level.

These soft skills can be developed over time, so don’t worry if you are not a perfect communicator just yet. The best way to acquire these skills prior is by completing a nursing degree at Baylor University online. During this program, you will learn how and why effective communication is vital to improving patient outcomes.

Why is good communication so important?

An internal study by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK found communication in healthcare is heavily reliant on the “spoken word”. This is perhaps different to other industries where digital emails, messages and video calls have become the dominant form of communication. This means that every person in a medical team needs to be able to relay clear and accurate information regularly. If this breaks down, patient safety can be endangered.

The importance of communication is evident during the formative stages of care. Doctors and nurses will work closely to assess and evaluate a patient’s condition, discuss what needs to be done and start putting certain “action items” together to treat illnesses. This process is likely to involve the patient as well.

Nurses also need to be aware of the emotional state of a patient and be able to communicate with them directly to potentially improve their self-esteem and mental well-being. For example, you might have to converse with them in a second language briefly to calm their nerves and offer support.

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Nurses are also responsible for implementing care plans to achieve positive health outcomes. This involves taking certain actions during a shift and linking them to simple, attainable goals. This only works when the results and progress towards goals are communicated with doctors and other nurses. You might, for example, have spotted that a patient with a lung condition is using their accessory muscles to breathe overnight, which is an observation that should be clearly communicated to others.

Fast and effective communication across the medical team creates a synergy and sense of coordination that is vital to high-quality care in medical units. In contrast, an inefficiency in sharing information can endanger patient safety and be a drain on both time and resources. A study found poor communication contributed to $1.7 million in wasted costs every year.

In addition to “intrahospital” communication, which takes place within the same healthcare center, there are also “interhospital” interactions to consider. The latter occurs when multiple hospitals and clinics share information. Communicating effectively here ensures the right medical files are sent on time and that patients can be transferred between facilities. Two facilities might also need to coordinate to move vital medical equipment. Again, good communication minimizes disruption and allows health workers to focus on improving patient outcomes instead of waiting for departments to overcome logistical challenges.

Finally, the NHS study also found that there are certain “preconditions” that must be present for effective communication in medical departments. It states that team members should be open, trusting and respectful of each other and their patients and be willing to raise concerns at any point if anyone’s safety is in danger. Creating an environment where people can point out problems and speak freely is vital for communication that can improve outcomes and save lives.

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